The Favourite

Baroque and crazy

Film. Named ten times at the Oscars, the movie of Yórgos Lánthimos is a bleeding comedy on the woman power. With the incredibles Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman.

By Jacques Braunstein

1708, Anne Queen of Britain, lived surrounded by 17 rabbits, symbolizing the 17 miscarriages that make that she has no direct heir. The surrealist atmosphere is crashed ! She rules, with her favourite help, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough with whom she was raised. The Queen is played bu Olivia Colman who received the Golden Globe for this role she knows well (she played Elisabeth II in the seasons 3 and 4 of The Crown on Netflix) and the favourite by the inscrutable Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardner, Agora, Youth…).

A cynical tale worthy of the British satirists of the time

We are on the middle of the Restoration. After years of puritanism, the royalty has recovered its splendour and the court is drowned in a debauchery of lace, wigs and powder that almost made Versailles look austere. The most cinephiles will think to Amber, the Otto Preminger (1947) piece of art, the others to Kaamelott or to Ridicule of Patrice Leconte, so the tone is sardonic. But this tone is at the service of an eminently political statements.

A poor cousin of the duchess shows up out, Abigail – played by Emma Stone (Oscar for Best Actress 2017 for La La Land). First employed as a servant, she gradually attracted the graces of the capricious queen, until she supplanted her relative in the role of favourite. It’s the war in underskirt. A narrative that takes an uncompromising look at power relations between women.

At the opposite of Mary Queen of Scots, stupid demonstration on violence against women. Where each speech line comes highlighting the advances suffered by the sovereign in a man’s world. On The Favourite, the line is much thinner. Godolphin, the leader of the party Tory (conservative) and Robert Harley, leader of the party Whig (liberal) – Nicolas Hoult (X-Men, Mad Max, Fury Road, etc.) – think they can use these women to influence the Queen’s politics, but they also get used.

Baroque in its costumes and decors (palaces and gardens with hieratic beauty) as in its staging (use of fish eyes, slow down, saturated colors…), The Favourite is a cynical tale worthy of the British satirists of the time (Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe were friends of the minister Robert Harley). And it’s without doubts the Yórgos Lánthimos piece of art – Greek director of the strange The Lobster (2015). The film is also named at the Oscars for the best director, film or screenplay, as well as for his costumes, decorations or his photography…

Faced with so much munificence, we think forcefully of Barry Lyndon (1975) of Stanley Kubrick. And his disillusioned ending card: « It was during the reign of King George III [Queen Anne’s little nephew] that these characters lived and quarreled; good or bad, beautiful or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now ». But a Stanley Kubrick inspired by Monty Python !